The Philadelphia 76ers travel up to Brooklyn to take on the new-look Nets. Both teams will feature some new faces, as Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson will make their debuts tonight for the Nets, while Jalen McDaniels will likely do the same with the Sixers. This is the third matchup between the two squads.
Sixers vs. Nets game info
Who: Philadelphia 76ers (35-19) at Brooklyn Nets (33-22)
Where: Barclays Arena, Brooklyn NY
When: 6:00 pm EST
Watch: NBC Sports Philadelphia, NBA TV, YES Network
For the Sixers
The Sixers are coming into Brooklyn to face a Nets team that is now Ben Simmons. The Nets traded away Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant this past week, leaving Simmons as the remaining “star.” They played on Friday night, at home, in a revenge game after losing to the New York Knicks this past Sunday, having surrendered a 21-point first-quarter lead. Friday night looked to be much of the same until a big fourth quarter enabled the Sixers to win 119-108.
Joel Embiid continues his season-long domination, having 35 points and 11 rebounds against the Knicks. James Harden had 20 points, eight rebounds, and 12 assists, keeping up the production that he’s been putting out consistently since his return from injury at the beginning of December. Hardens first step, which seemed to fade over the past two years as he’s battled injury, has seemed to have returned of late, which is a good sign for the Sixers as they head toward the playoffs.
Guard Tyrese Maxey had one of his best games of late, finishing with 27 points on 9-16 shooting, including 5-8 on three-pointers. While Maxey didn’t start, which continues to be an issue, he played his best basketball in the past few weeks. Guard DeAnthony Melton continues to start in head coach Doc Rivers’ rotation and had only 5 points in 19 minutes. While Melton is contributing 10.9 points per game on the season, he hasn’t thrived in the starting group and still looks to be the best option for running the second unit and allowing Maxey to start where he’s shined when on the floor with Harden and Embiid.
For the Nets
For better or worse, the Nets are now Ben Simmons’ team. Simmons had problems sharing the spotlight with Joel Embiid before leaving Philadelphia, then was on what was supposed to be another “super team” with Durant and Irving. That experiment is now over. With Durant and Irving gone, Simmons is left as the biggest name in Brooklyn.
Simmons is having the statistically worst year of his career. He’s averaging 7.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 6.3 assists while appearing in 39 games for the Nets. He’s shooting 43.9% from the free-throw line, which is enough to make Shaquille O’Neal look like Steph Curry. Simmons just hasn’t looked good.
The Nets do have newly acquired Mikal Bridges, Spencer Dinwiddle, Cam Johnson, and Dorian Finney-Smith added to the roster along with Seth Curry, Cam Thomas, Day’Ron Sharpe, Royce O’Neal, and Joe Harris, which doesn’t seem like a very intimidating roster.
Dinwiddle had 25 points, five rebounds, and six assists in the Nets’ victory over the Chicago Bulls on Thursday night. Cam Thomas also chipped in 20 points, and Joe Harris had 18. Simmons, in 20 minutes on the floor, finished with 8 points, eight rebounds, and four assists.
While the Nets have a group of new players coming in and will take some time to get used to playing with each other, they shouldn’t be taken lightly. The win over the Bulls, who are talented but underperforming this year, should be a sign that the shortened roster was able to pull it together for a victory. Adding in Bridges and Finney-Smith should really help give the quad some depth. But, will it be enough going forward as the Nets are currently 5th in the Eastern Conference and don’t look to be the contender they were considered to start the season?
What to look for
The Sixers, while not taking the Nets lightly, given the defensive abilities of players like Simmons and Bridges, should be able to run them out of the arena tonight. Joel Embiid, who was recently named a starter for the All-Star game, has just been unstoppable the past few months and is having another season where he should be a finalist for MVP.
James Harden has found his legs after a few years of injury and seems to be just coasting right now, playing very well but saving his energy to show that he’s not a playoff dud. Hoping that Friday night’s game against the Knicks becomes the norm for Tyrese Maxey is not a real long shot, as he has proven that he’s a star in his own right. This shouldn’t be a tough game for the Sixers, and we could see extended bench player minutes as the starter may not be needed more than 28-30 tonight.